India v Pakistan, Champions Trophy final, The Oval June 17, 2017

Kohli backs 'match-winner' Pandya


Pandya has been the most expensive among Indian bowlers © AFP

Hardik Pandya is a "priceless" player who can provide "a match-winning performance in any game he plays," according to Virat Kohli.

Kohli, the India captain, said he "would not think" of omitting Pandya from his team for the ICC Champions Trophy final and insisted he was the man to balance the side.

While Pandya has enjoyed relatively little opportunity with the bat in the tournament to date - he has twice come in towards the end of the innings and, after making 9 in 5 balls against Sri Lanka, thrashed an unbeaten 20 in 6 balls against Pakistan - he has bowled in all four matches claiming three wickets (at a cost of 60 apiece) and conceding 6.20 runs per over.

That makes him the most expensive bowler in the India squad over the four matches and has prompted questions over whether they might recall specialist seamers such as Umesh Yadav or Mohammed Shami for the final in his place.

But Kohli was adamant that he valued the all-round balance Pandya offers and suggested that, if India continued to invest in him, they would be rewarded with "a match-winning performance" in a "crisis."

"I would back a guy like Hardik who provides you so much balance in conditions that he can be effective as a bowler and his batting is priceless," Kohli said. "If you're chasing a total and you need eight an over and you've lost wickets, he's a guy who can still win you the game. He can give you a match-winning performance in any game that he plays. As a fielder, as well. It's very hard to find a package like that.

"That's the kind of belief he has in his ability and we have that belief in him. You need to back guys like him on a regular basis and you will get those results where the team is in crisis and he stands up and gives a match-winning performance.

"So far he's been really good in the tournament. When he bowls well, it's a total relief for me as a captain because he can get you seven good overs. He can get you a couple of wickets, as well, and then with the bat and the field we know what he can do.

"So I would not think of changing anything at this particular stage."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • cricfan8911617800 on June 24, 2017, 7:12 GMT

    Pakistan win the icc chimpion thropy

  • cricfan1526790275 on June 20, 2017, 2:43 GMT

    For me i agree with most people that Pandya is a conplete package ok u admit he is no Ben Stokes, but he has the talent to reach them heights as a very good all rounder, he is goid fielder,big hitter as we saw in tht cameo yesterday, but he defintley stil lacks abit in the bowling department, although he is improving match by match, i reckon he will b one of the best all rounders around soon. Respet from a happy Pak fan

  • MONOJIT on June 19, 2017, 12:04 GMT

    Pandya is a special talent. U can't keep a player of his calibre out of the team. Just look at him, he is a complete package. He has the ability to give opposition a scare with his big hitting and the most important thing is that he is not a slogger. He has a good technique and can strike the ball cleanly. Many call him an expensive bowler but no player is perfect that too when he is so young. He has the ability and talent and he is only going to improve. Kohli is doing well to back him as he can be one of the biggest match winners for India in the future.

  • cricfan58814239 on June 19, 2017, 9:08 GMT

    before final many wanted ashwin IN and after Final many want ashwin OUT, seems like people from india arent sure who they want to keep or not

  • ScoobyRaj on June 18, 2017, 16:01 GMT

    Hardick proved he is a world class player. Hardick & Bhuvi were the only players who were great in the match otherwise everyone failed spectacularly even Dhawan bought an end to his outstanding streak of 9 consecutive 30s. Next best are Gayle, Mahela, AB & Sanath 5 each. Williamson, Collingwood, Ponting, Gilly and Dravid 4 each. Indian team should have played Krunal instead of Jadeja & Shami instead of Ashwin in the final. Major blunder.

  • SamRoy on June 18, 2017, 8:45 GMT

    @ECLIPSE0990 If playing Pandya is so important then drop either Jadhav or Yuvraj and play Pandya. Pandya can only be a 6th bowler; not among the top 5 bowlers especially since it is a crunch game. Ashwin, Jadeja and Pandya look obvious weak links on a flat pitch.

  • cskfangg on June 18, 2017, 8:01 GMT

    Umesh for ashwin and shami for pandya should be replaced. Bowling lineup should be bhuvi, shami, Umesh, bumrah, Jadeja.. Pakistan players will play spinners well so need for ashwin and pandya is week link in Bowling... Both are no use in final against Pakistan

  • cantwaittosee on June 18, 2017, 7:00 GMT

    Although the teams that are most likely to play are 1 change each. Umesh for Ashwin and Aamir for Raees. Pak might drop Shadab to bring in Aamir and/or Faheem, and still play Raees. Cheers!

  • the_logical_fan on June 18, 2017, 6:45 GMT

    Play either pandya or jadhav (depending upon conditions and opposition) but not both and slot in either shami or yadav. The team will be more balanced then. In current team combination, team India do not have a reliable backup option if one of the 4 front line bowlers has an off day, a scenario that presents itself more often than not. Hence it will be wise to include an additional bowling option.

  • Eclipse0990 on June 18, 2017, 6:41 GMT

    Someone said "forged by fire". Completely agree. India might win by dropping Pandya but then he will always lack that self motivation since he would be dropped from a final which says "you're not good enough". Player like him thrive on confidence and challenges. I still believe that when chips are down, Pandya will prove Kohli right. One match winning knock or a 3 wickets haul, he will improve by leaps and bounds

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